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Is brake failure actually a result of driver error?

Many professional drivers spend years behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer. As such, the general assumption might be that their skills are above average.

More than 15 million semitrucks travel across America’s roadways each year. Considering their weight and size, a collision with a passenger vehicle often results in catastrophic injuries; on average, someone is seriously injured or killed in a truck accident every 15 minutes. This likely begs the question: are truck drivers prepared to keep you safe?

Air brake systems and potential safety concerns

Rather than relying on applied pressure to slow down, as with the disc or drum brakes in most personal vehicles, a steady stream of air is necessary to stop a semi. When something interrupts that airflow, or a trucker fails to exercise care when using the brakes, accidents commonly result. 

According to Transport Topics, air brake failure accounts for nearly 30% of trucking accidents. However, young, inexperienced drivers may be to blame. In one study involving almost 970 commercial truck wrecks, driver errors caused 87% of the collisions.

Though not as common as mistakes stemming from a lack of experience or improper training, system malfunctions can happen. Brakes could lock up, causing a driver to lose control, and overheated brakes might catch fire.

Experienced truckers know that when going down a steep decline, for example, you can use the following methods to minimize brake failure:

  • Shift the truck into low gear before you head downhill
  • Use the engine (or “jake brake”) to regulate the truck’s speed
  • Apply the brakes intermittently, rather than riding them throughout the descent

Drivers might not be aware of the immediate problems associated with their over-reliance on the truck’s brakes. However, a fading braking system increases danger not only for the trucker but also for other motorists.

Depending on the circumstances of a truck accident, multiple parties may be liable. If life-altering injuries arise, exploring your legal options may be your preferred course of action.

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